“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.”
As an engineer, nothing makes me more productive than the last minute. Though in truth, there are probably other reasons as well. I keep meaning to join the Procrastinators Club of America but never quite open the website. Of course the jokes on them as they haven’t bothered to digitize and get a webpage or start any social media accounts. Or a newsletter. Or even start the club.
It feels like an easier justification to say, because I’m an engineer, because I can say it. That cuts deep, but cutting deeper, why am I an engineer? An engineer is a practicing scientist. They put ideas into action and find a way to economically bring about better things for all. But an engineer creates.
Creating is in my bones. I love to create. Nothing is more magical than looking at a field of rolling grass, shrubs, and trees and coming up with a vision. Then go to a blank, black computer screen (or paper if you’re really old school) and drawing colored lines until someone with heavy equipment and hangovers go out and construct what was once just a set of potentially misfiring neurons in an engineer’s brain. Something from nothing.
Creation comes in many forms though, and one of the first ways I created was by writing. And the first long form story I began to work on is fast coming to completion. At least its first creation point. As with any endeavor, the path from first thought to final completion is not a straight path. There are pitfalls, obstacles, failures, and lessons to be learned along the way. This story has been no different.
The genesis of the story came in 1984 when I read an article in a newspaper that had as its first line “A tale of piracy was spun out of the multiplying skein of rum running in 1922 that would rival Hollywood for producing a better plot.” Now who can argue with that? But the first lesson I didn’t learn was to finish the story before you edit the story. I restarted the story no fewer than five times before getting it to its current state.
And by restarting I mean major plot overhaul. Five people, three people, nine people, came up with the plan in a bar, came up with a plan on the beach, came up with the plan because the team was led by a Greek named Benachi (where does this stuff come from?). Eventually though I settled down. Literally. After getting married I restarted the story and said no more restarts. Though it did languish a bit.
It was started by hand, then typed on a typewriter. Then the typewriter broke (ribbon wouldn’t advance) but I noticed that a sheet of carbon paper would make it so I could still type it just without corrections. Then I was able to finally digitize it. Put it into Microsoft Works, then Word with a short jaunt into WordPerfect before ending up in Scrivener.
There were 20,000 words in November of 2003. In March of this year the story was about 24,000 words. It was a slow grower. By mid June it sat at 52,000, a remarkable increase I didn’t realize could happen. And then it happened. I remembered that I am an engineer.
Nothing makes an engineer more productive than the last minute. In fact, if it weren’t for the last minute I’d never get anything done. So on D-Day’s 75th Anniversary I decided that the first draft will be finished in 30 days. It was late at night so don’t get hung up, but my first draft will be done no later than 6 July. And of course, as any fan of the greatest Kubrick film ever knows and Dr. Strangelove says, “The whole point of the doomsday machine...is lost if you keep it a secret.”
So now, it’s out there. First draft will be done 19 days from posting this. I have refrained from posting this piece in my Writings page but will add it soon if someone wants to beta read it in advance of editing and re-writes. When I change something I’ll update both the post and let you know what changed.
Now I’m back to writing the ending.